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It might be Christmas now, but planning for the biggest, greatest and most impressive Christmas displays in the world begins months before. Every year, the world’s luxury department stores indulge in an annual race to out-do one another (and their own previous efforts) to create the most lavish decorations. This year is no different, with planning beginning as early as April and production in August for some of these, our picks for the best Christmas window displays of 2016.
1. Bergdorf Goodman, New York City
Last year, the doyenne of Manhattan luxury department stores teamed up with Swarovski in a very fashion forward display. This year, the theme seems to be green. As in the colour, not the environmental movement. Titled Destination Extraordinary, the five fantastical stilllifes that make up the display are anchored by shades of green, as well as a decidedly natural history take on the festive dioramas. Inspired by the painter Henri Rousseau and 12th century Chinese watercolour mountainscapes, The Scenic Route window sees a tightrope walker in a couture gown walking on a tightrope over a tropical river, complete with herons, orchids and ferns. The Hitchhiker features a monstrously large bunny ferrying a mannequin dressed like Edina Monsoon in a forest of cacti, while The Winter Garden sees an intrepid and fashionable butterfly catcher walk into a greenhouse guarded by 3m high praying mantis. It’s almost a shame that it has to come down on January 2, 2017.
2. Fortnum & Mason, London
In a year that has seen Brexit and a political tsunami in America, Fortnum & Mason is making a plea for unity and harmony with its display. Titled ‘Together We’re Merrier’, it eschews glamour and glitz by focusing on cheeky wit, bringing together former enemies in a merry celebration. Illustrated by artist Brett Ryder then hand-sculpted and painted into 3D models, the windows bring together nemesis like the Wolf and the Sheep (dancing a jig), the Bull shaking hands with a kettle in a China shop to settle their differences and the Chef clinking glasses with the Lobster. And perhaps our favourite, Brussel sprouts give a young Boy a ride like a Space Hopper.
3. Tiffany & Co, New York City
In tribute to the city where it all began for this jeweller, Tiffany & Co presents a very ‘Tiffany New York Christmas’. Bringing to life scenes from the Big Apple, the windows are suffused with the quite familiar robin’s egg blue-and-white palette. In one window, a bejewelled Christmas tree surrounded by chandeliers sits on a balcony overlooking the iconic New York City skyline. In another, two Tiffany watches skate around under the watchful gaze of the Rockerfeller Centre’s gold statue of Prometheus. And, quite arrestingly, a view of lower Manhattan from a distance on the Hudson river, shining like a diamond iceberg as fireworks explode over the city in a bounty of carats.
4. Galeries Lafayette, Paris
Probably the most ingenious of all the Christmas displays this year, the venerable Parisian institution has defaulted to a humble material: paper. Artist Lorenzo Papace proves that the unassuming can become magnificent in the right hands and with the right amount of creativity, filling up the store’s windows with paper cutouts. Intricately cut and masterfully constructed, the origami masterpiece tells the story of a wandering family of polar bears travelling from the melting North Pole to a new home in Galeries Lafayette, Paris. It’s an important message delivered in an astoundingly inventive fashion. And it doesn’t end there; Papace also contributed the store’s Christmas tree, made entirely of paper, which hangs under its central dome.
5. Lord & Taylor, New York City
Where others have gone for pizzazz and others for whimsy, Lord & Taylor in Manhattan has resorted to that good old Christmas staple: heartwarming. Its windows this year are dioramas of a winter wonderland under the ‘Enchanted Forest’ theme, where handmade woodland creatures gambol with abandon. In one, a snow-covered bear forms an improvised mountain for mice to ski and sled down, while a family of foxes snuggle warmly in their burrow as two raccoons play above them in the snow. We particularly like the one where a mother owl protects her young from the winter’s cold, a reminder that even in this season of cheer and joy, it still is all about family. Sappy as that sounds, Lord & Taylor has made us say ‘awwwwww’.
6. Pavilion KL, Kuala Lumpur
A shout-out to our city, KL! While our climate isn’t quite conducive for that winter feeling, we don’t let it stop us from embracing the Christmas spirit whole-heartedly. While not technically a window display, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur’s central court has been the stage for some of the most impressive festive displays recently, including last year’s record-setting Swarovski crystal tree. This year, Pavilion and Swarovski are teaming up again, opting for some carnival fun in the world’s first Swarovski Crystallised Merry-Go-Round. Spinning around, the nine metre tall carousel is covered in over 3 million Swarovski crystals. A ride on it costs RM10, with part of the proceeds going to Pavilion’s iniative Charity at Heart.